Racial whitening

Racial whitening, or "whitening" (branqueamento), is an ideology that was widely accepted in Brazil between 1889 and 1914 [1], as the solution to the "Negro problem."[2] However, racial whitening specific to Brazil also encompasses the perception of individuals as being white in relation to their position in the class system.[3] Supporters of the Whitening ideology believed that the Negro race would advance culturally and genetically, or even disappear totally, within several generations of mixed breeding between white people and black people. This ideology gained its support from two scientific racism beliefs that were prominent during this time. One being social Darwinism, which applied Darwin's theory of natural selection to a society or race, and the other being Aryanism, the belief that the "white" "Aryan" race was superior to all other cultures. By combining these two ideas, the white elites of the time believed that because "white" blood was superior it would inevitably "whiten" the inferior races' blood.

Use of the whitening ideology

The actual use of the Whitening ideology seems to be peculiar to Brazil, and was not seen in Europe or the United States.[2] Many Europeans believed that the mixing of races would produce degenerate offspring and they feared mixing could become a threat to the white race. In the United States, a barrier between black people and white people was formed by segregation, which forbade the mixing of the two races. In the 1910s and 1920s, many states in the Southern United States passed the "one drop rule", which classified a person with any African ancestry, no matter how small or remote, as black.

Brazil on the other hand did not have the barrier of segregation, and the Portuguese were more accepting of miscegenation. Brazil was also already a multicultural society that already had a mixed-class. When scientific racist beliefs and ideas became more prominent in the 1850s, Brazil's society felt they needed to find their place in the social order and to do this they needed to solve their problem with the supposedly inferior races. Because they already were a multicultural society, the Whitening ideology was a perfect solution. Most Brazilians thought this approach was a far better one than what the United States had done. A Brazilian statesman compared the United States and Brazil by saying,

Now comes the necessity to devise some method of dealing with it [the Negro problem]. You of the United States are keeping the black people as an entirely separate element, and you are not treating them in a way that fosters their self-respect. They will remain a menacing element in your civilization, permanent, and perhaps even after a while a growing element. With us the question tends to disappear, because the black people themselves tend to disappear and become absorbed...[2]

Result of Brazil's whitening

A Redenção de Cam (Redemption of Ham), Modesto Brocos, 1895, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. The painting depicts a black grandmother, mulatta mother, white father and their quadroon child, hence three generations of racial hypergamy though whitening.

Around the late 1920s, scientific racism gave way to environmentalist theories.[2] Gilberto Freyre, a student of anthropologist Franz Boas, was a prominent figure of the conversion. Gilberto Freyre praised interracial partnerships and mating that occurred among the Brazilian population, because they popularized the notion that Brazil was a racial democracy. Rather than seeing interracial mating as an attempt to whiten blood, he saw it as the foundation of Brazilian culture, interpreting it as evidence that Brazil lacked racial relations conflict.[4]

Perception of whiteness in Brazil

Whitening in Brazil is a sociological term to explain the change in perception of one's race as a black or mixed race person rises in the class structure of Brazil. Racial whitening in Brazil is a social concept that is deeply rooted in the history of the nation.[5] Similar to that of the United States, Brazil experienced massive colonization by Europeans and importation of Africans in the 18th and 19th century.[5] This type of political and social climate inherently represses a group of people while one group dominated the other. In the case of Brazil, the white man rose to the top of the social ladder, which left the African slaves and the future Afro-Brazilians repressed for generations to come.

Whiteness in Brazil is often defined at the intersection between race and class. In Brazil, one's racial classification is not only dependent on skin color, but is also influenced by the perception of self and the perception from others.[5] Compared to the United States, race in Brazil is not often defined based on the biological make-up of a person. As described by Omni and Winant, racial formation is "the process by which social, economic and political forces determine the content and importance of racial categories, and by which they are in turn shaped by racial meanings".[6] This suggests that race is defined by social forces and the individual. In Brazil it has been said that race exists on a spectrum and can change based on a number of factors such as social class and educational attainment.[7]

Class and education have an influence on the perceived whiteness of an individual. The Brazilian class system is heavily influenced from the history of slavery and colonization. This puts people who identify as white at the top of class system and those who identify as black at the bottom of the class system. Upward mobility is possible in Brazil, but very rare.[5] An aspect that influences the upward mobility of individuals is education. According to Telles, greater education leads to greater whitening.[5] This suggests that one who achieves higher education can be perceived as whiter. Nonetheless, North American anthropologist John F. Collins has suggested that ideologies of whitening have declined markedly, at least in the northeastern state of Bahia. According to Collins, one novel aspect of this shift is not simply a supposedly novel, recent, emphasis on blackness over whitening among many Bahians, but the invocation and generalization by the end of the 20th C. of specific forms of explicitly genealogical imagination that support racial or ethnic identity.[8]

A study was done by Chinyere K Osuji on racial boundary policing of Black-White couples in Brazil.[4][9] Her study shows how race and class are intertwined in order to produce inequality among Brazilians in interracial marriages. Though the idea that interracial marriages in Brazil are used for racial whitening has disappeared since the early 1900's, many interracial couples still feel as though their partnerships are being stigmatized by outsiders. Ethnoracial boundaries[4] continue to divide people of different racial phenotypes as a way of creating distinctions and keeping order in multi-racial societies such as Brazil. Black women are often hypersexualized, and black men are looked down upon for having married a white woman. Whiter Brazilians engage in oppressive othering[10] by speaking or looking at others in ways that make them feel inferior.

It is important to note that the particular deployment of the concept of racial whitening may be unique to Brazil. Brazil's apparent flexibility in racial classification system and Brazilians' ostensibly unique interpretation of racial belonging girds this idea.[5][11] Future research ought to be done elsewhere to see where else this idea of racial whitening exists.

People who have made reference to whitening in Brazil

  • João Batista de Lacerda: Director of the Museu Nacional, wrote a paper named "Half-Breeds of Brazil".[12] In it he describes the differences in the different races. He also predicted that by the third generation of mixed breeding there are predominantly white characteristics.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: After visiting Brazil in 1913 he wrote an article in Outlook magazine. In his article he talks about how the Brazilian Negro is disappearing.[13]
  • Thomas Skidmore: Wrote the book Black into White which covers many of the aspects dealing with Whitening. Also gives his own theories and insights.
  • Samuel Alexson: Wrote an informative pamphlet in New York explaining whitening to the common man.[14]


  1. ^ Sánchez Arteaga, Juanma. "Biological Discourses on Human Races and Scientific Racism in Brazil (1832–1911)." Journal of the History of Biology 50.2 (2017): 267-314.
  2. ^ a b c d Skidmore, Thomas. Black Into White Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, Oxford University Press. NY, 1974.
  3. ^ NOGUEIRA, Oracy. "Tanto preto quanto branco: estudo de relações raciais no Brasil." São Paulo: TA Queiróz, Série 1 (1985).
  4. ^ a b c Osuji, Chinyere K. (2013). "RACIAL 'BOUNDARY-POLICING': Perceptions of Black-White Interracial Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro1". Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race. 10 (1): 179–203. doi:10.1017/S1742058X13000118. ISSN 1742-058X.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hier, Sean P.; Greenberg, Joshua L. (2002-01-01). "Constructing a discursive crisis: risk, problematization and illegal Chinese in Canada". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 25 (3): 490–513. doi:10.1080/01419870020036701. ISSN 0141-9870.
  6. ^ Omi, M. and H. Winant. 1994. Racial Formations in the United States. New York: Routledge.
  7. ^ Harris, Marvin D. (1964-01-01). "Racial Identity in Brazil". Luso-Brazilian Review 1 (2): 21–28.
  8. ^ Collins, John F. (2015). Revolt of the Saints: Memory and Redemption in the Twilight of Brazilian Racial Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-5320-1.
  9. ^ Mitchell-Walthour, Gladys L.; Hordge-Freeman, Elizabeth (2016). Race and the Politics of Knowledge Production. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. pp. 179–187. doi:10.1057/9781137553942_14. ISBN 9781349716647.
  10. ^ Schwalbe, Michael (December 2000). "Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis". Social Forces. 79 (2): 419–452. JSTOR 2675505.
  11. ^ Sheriff, Robin (2001). Dreaming Equality: Color, Race and Racism in Urban Brazil. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813530000.
  12. ^ "The Metis, or Half-Breeds, of Brazil" (PDF). Children of metis have been found, in the third generation, to present all the physical characters of the white race, although some of them retain a few traces of their black ancestry through the influence of atavism. The influence of sexual selection, however, tends to neutralise that of atavism, and removes from the descendants of the metis all the characteristic features of the black race. In virtue of this process of ethnic reduction, it is logical to expect that in the course of another century the metis will have disappeared from Brazil.
  13. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (21 February 1914). "Brazil and the Negro". Outlook. New York: Outlook Publishing Company, Incorporated. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  14. ^ Alexson, Samuel. On the Whitening of the Brazilian Negro, Nonsensical Press. NY, 1967.
Afro-Brazilian history

The history of Afro-Brazilian people spans over five centuries of racial interaction between Africans imported, involved or descended from the effects of the Atlantic slave trade.


Blanqueamiento, branqueamento, or whitening, is a social, political, and economic practice used in many post-colonial countries to "improve the race" (mejorar la raza) towards a supposed ideal of whiteness. The term blanqueamiento is rooted in Latin America and is used more or less synonymously with racial whitening. However, blanqueamiento can be considered in both the symbolic and biological sense. Symbolically, blanqueamiento represents an ideology that emerged from legacies of European colonialism, described by Anibal Quijano's theory of coloniality of power, which caters to white dominance in social hierarchies. Biologically, blanqueamiento is the process of whitening by marrying a lighter-skinned individual to produce lighter-skinned offspring.

European Moroccans

European Moroccans are Moroccans whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe, most notably France and Spain. Many European families settled in the country during French and Spanish rule, from 1912 to 1955.

Prior to independence, Morocco was home to half a million Europeans, and European Christians formed almost half the population of the city of Casablanca. Since the kingdom's independence in 1955, the European population has decreased substantially.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 250,000 Spaniards lived in Morocco. Most left Morocco after its independence and their numbers were reduced to 13,000.Today European Moroccans are a small minority group in Morocco, accounting for only 1% of the country's population. In religion, most are Roman Catholic Christians.

European Tunisians

European Tunisians are Tunisians whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe and its ethnic groups, most notably French people, German people, British people, Italian Tunisians (mostly Sicilians and Sardinians), Maltese people, Russians, Slavic people, Greeks, Iberians, Circassians and Turco-Tunisians.

Prior to independence, there were 255,000 Europeans in Tunisia in 1956. In 1926, there were 90,000 Italians in Tunisia, compared to 70,000 Frenchmen, despite the fact that Tunisia was a French protectorate, as well as 8,396 Maltese.


The Kalungas are African-Brazilians that descend from people who escaped from slavery, and lived in remote settlements in Goiás state, Brazil. The Kalungas are one group of Quilombola, or people of African origin who live in hinterland settlements founded during the period of escaped slaves. The Kalunga communities of Goiás have existed for approximately 250 years, and first came back into contact with researchers and the federal government in the 1960s. Most of the approximately 5,000 Kalungas, who are of mixed African and indigenous ancestry, live in very poor conditions.All of the area occupied by the Kalungas was officially recognized by the state government in 1991 as a Historical Site and the Kalunga are preserved as Patrimônio Cultural Kalunga. The Kalungas settled in the mountains on both sides of the Paraná River, on slopes and in valleys, called Vãos. Today they occupy the territory of Cavalcante, Monte Alegre e Teresina de Goiás. The four main settlements are in the region of Contenda, the Vão do Calunga, the Vão de Almas, the Vão do Moleque and the Ribeirão dos Bois. Other Kalungas remain in unrecognized communities or in isolation.

Old Stock Americans

Old Stock Americans, Old Pioneer Stock, or Anglo-Americans are Americans who are descended from the original settlers of the Thirteen Colonies, of mostly British ancestry, who immigrated in the 17th and the 18th centuries.

Play the white man

Play the white man is a phrase used in parts of Britain meaning to be decent and trustworthy in one's actions. The phrase is commonly used by natives of the Yorkshire and the Humber region.A similar expression, originating in the southern United States in the 20th century, is That's mighty white of you and variations, with the meaning of "thank you for being fair". This phrase is racist in origin, with "white" referring to the white racial classification. Because of its racist connotations, since the mid-to-late 20th century it has mostly been used ironically when used at all.

Racial democracy

Racial democracy (Portuguese: Democracia racial) is a term used by some to describe race relations in Brazil. The term denotes some scholars' belief that Brazil has escaped racism and racial discrimination. Those researchers contend that Brazilians do not view each other through the lens of race and do not harbor racial prejudice towards one another. Because of that, while social mobility of Brazilians may be constrained by many factors, gender and class included, racial discrimination is considered irrelevant (within the confines of the concept racial democracy).

Stereotypes of white Americans

Stereotypes of white people in the United States are generalizations about the character and behavior of white Americans.

White Bolivians

White Bolivians or European Bolivians are Bolivian people whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe or the Middle East, most notably Spain and Germany, and to a lesser extent, Italy, Croatia, Lebanon, and Turkey.

Bolivian people of European ancestry mostly descended from people who moved from Spain, five hundred years ago. Many are not white by an American standard, but are mixed. Most of them are rich and part of Bolivian upper class.European Bolivians are a minority ethnic group in Bolivia, accounting for 5% of the country's population. An additional 68% of the population is mestizo, having mixed European and indigenous ancestry.

White Caribbeans

White Caribbeans or European Caribbeans, are people who are born in the Caribbean whose ancestors are from Europe or people who immigrated to the Caribbean from Europe and had acquired citizenship in their respective Caribbean countries. White Caribbeans include:

White Bahamian

White Barbadian (see Redleg)

White Bermudian

White Cubans

White Dominican (Dominica)

White Dominican (Dominican Republic)

White Haitians

White Jamaicans

White Puerto Ricans

White Surinamese

White Trinidadian and Tobagonian

White Dominican (Dominica)

White Dominicans or European Dominicans, are Dominicans whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe.

As of 2013, people of solely European descent are a small minority in the Commonwealth of Dominica, comprising only 0.8% of the population. An additional 8.9% of Dominica's population is mixed raced, predominantly of mixed White European and Black African ancestry.

White Jamaicans

White Jamaicans are Jamaicans whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe, most notably England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Portugal. The 2011 national census recorded a white population of 4,365 people, equating to 0.16% of the overall population. Historically White Jamaicans made up a much larger percentage of the population, forming a majority for most of the 17th century.

White Saint Helenians

White Saint Helenians or Saint Helenians of European descent are Saint Helenians whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe, most notably the United Kingdom.

Currently, Whites are a minority ethnic group in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, accounting for 25% of the country's population.

White Surinamese

White Surinamese or European Surinamese are Surinamese people whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe.

As of 2013, people of solely European descent are a small minority in Suriname, accounting for only 1% of the country's population. The largest European ethnic groups in Suriname are the Dutch and the Portuguese.

White people in Botswana

White people in Botswana are Botswana people whose ancestry lies within the continent of Europe, most notably the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Currently, White Africans are a minority ethnic group in Botswana, accounting for a little more than 3% of the country's population. The White population usually speak Afrikaans as well as other European languages, most notably English.


Whitening may refer to:

Key whitening, a technique intended to increase the security of an iterated block cipher

Racial whitening, a theory of racial profiling

Skin whitening, a cosmetic procedure used to whiten the skin

Tooth whitening, a common procedure in general dentistry

Whitening (leather processing), the process of lightening the colour of leather

Whitening transformation, a decorrelation method that converts a covariance matrix of a set of samples into an identity matrix

Blanqueamiento, the practice of marrying whiter people in order to have whiter offspringWhitener may also refer to:

Coffee whitener, a non-dairy additive product for hot drinks

Optical brightener, a fluorescent ingredient in products such as laundry detergents

Basil Lee Whitener, a Democratic U.S. Representative from North Carolina between 1957 and 1968.

Whitewash (disambiguation)

Whitewash is a paint-like covering of hydrated lime or a cheap white paint.

Whitewash may also refer to:

Racial whitening, or "whitewash" (branqueamento), an ideology that was widely accepted in Brazil between 1889 and 1914

Whitewashing in film, the practice of casting white actors in historically or canonically non-white character roles

Whitewash (sport), a sports game or series in which the losing person or team fails to score

Whitewashing (censorship), a term for censorship

Whitewash (1994 film), a 1994 HBO Family Channel special

Whitewash (2013 film), a Canadian film

Whitewash Jones, a racist caricature from the 1940s comic book Young Allies

Whitewash procedure, a legal procedure in shareholder law

White Wash (film), a 2011 American documentary film


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